An oil painting of 100 historical personages is one of the Internet’s newest sensations. Figures ranging from Fidel Castro to Shirley Temple are depicted in the large-scale 20′ x 8.5′ (6m x 2.6m) oil painting entitled “Discussing the Divine Comedy With Dante.” The painting also includes world landmarks like the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, and Stonehenge. Three additional faces — pushing up the count to 103 — belong to the artists themselves. Dante may be seen with his Commedia in the upper right hand corner of the painting, standing among the three artists.
The creators are Chinese artists. They are Dai Dudu, Liaoning Art Institute’s Vice President; Li Tiezi, contemporary oil painter; Zhang Anjun, chairman of the Shenyang Youth Association of Artists, and contemporary oil painter. Dai Dudu led the effort.
According to Dai Dudu, the three began work on the painting in 2006, completing it 10 months later. “At the time, we wanted to represent world history within a single painting. We wanted to showcase the world’s story, and let viewers feel as if they were flipping the pages of a history book,” Dai said.
Many of the figures in the painting are Chinese. Chairman Mao Zedong appears smoking by a round table in the center, with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai standing behind him. Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan is riding a horse opposite Napoleon. Ancient Chinese poet Li Bai is sprawled on a chair, seemingly drunk, with a delicate wine cup and a typewriter in front of him.Many of the figures are Chinese. The non-Chinese figures are:
Dante, Archimedes, Gates, Lenin, Pele, Tutankhamen, Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam, Chopin, Hepburn, Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Bethune, Gorky, Pushkin, Charles de Gaulle, Paul, Bill Clinton, Peter the Great, Matisse, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Elvis, Stalin, Da Vinci, Marx, Engels, Goethe, Nietzsche,Robert Caro, Shakespeare , Mozart, Napoleon, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Marlon Brando, Yasser Arafat, Monroe, Washington, Lincoln, Marie Curie, Rodin, Picasso, Caesar, Osama bin Laden, Bush, Luciano Pavarotti, Dali, Jordan, Sharon, Chennault, Charles, Kofi Annan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hideki Tojo, Mother Teresa, Michelangelo, Bismarck, Nobel, Tagore, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Eisenhower, Lautrec, Corneliu Baba, Gandhi, Noah, Einstein, Tolstoy, Hans Christian Andersen, Spielberg, Shirley Temple, Tyson, Vladimir Putin, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Freud, Elizabeth II.
Click here to view a high-resolution, annotated version of the painting. Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante. It is even possible to compare the painting of each figure with its source. A real time sponge.
Here is some curious trivia I came across, showing the the extraordinary amount of research and thought that went into this work.
1 The Queen’s head is superimposed on to the body and dress of Princesse Albert de Broglie as painted by Ingres in 1853.
2 The Chinese poet Li Bai falls backwards in his chair in exactly the same pose as a drunken reveller in William Hogarth’s painting An Election Entertainment (1754-5).
3 Deng Xiaoping adopts the classic nonchalant pose of Titian’s Portrait of a Man in London’s National Gallery, resting his arm as he turns towards us.
4 Rameses II sits in a similar pose to Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Lawrence Sterne, but by the time Reynolds used it this was already an ancient pose signifying melancholy.
5 Dante, whose religious poem The Divine Comedy is the key to this painting if its title is anything to go by, stands in profile like Piero della Francesca’s portrait of Federigo da Montefeltro.
6 Napoleon poses as . . . wait for it, himself. His horse closely resembles his steed in Gros’s painting Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau, in the Louvre.
7 Leonardo da Vinci worked for evil rulers such as Cesare Borgia and here he listens politely to Stalin’s mad schemes.
8 Significant objects are displayed on the tables just as they might be in a Renaissance painting. The typewriter signifies that Li Bai is a poet.
9 Kofi Annan imitates the boy musician in Manet’s The Fife Player.
10 Josef Stalin and Leonardo da Vinci are deep in conversation, Vladimir Putin rests his legs next to a sprawled Mike Tyson, while Margaret Thatcher – clutching her handbag – looks on with disdain
Message boards have erupted with contests to identify every person featured, according to The Daily Telegraph. An element of mystery also surrounds the origins of the painting, which appears to have been inspired by Raphael’s Renaissance fresco, “The School of Athens”.
While the figures in Raphael’s painting were all ancient philosophers, there appears to be little connecting the characters in this work, which includes historical giants like Napoleon alongside Bill Gates, the bespectacled face of modern success.
Any thoughts on the title?